Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/173

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The European Sky-God. i6i

trace of the same custom may be detected in the folk- ditty about the Red Etin •>

•The Red Etin of Ireland

Ance lived in Bellygan, And stole King Malcolm's daughter,

The King of fair Scotland. He beats her, he binds her.

He lays her on a band ; And every day he dings her

With a bright silver wand.'

Indeed, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the royal sceptre of the Insular Celts was but a modified form of the gold-and-silver apple-branch betokening the solar king.

If the Irish king was thus intimately connected with the tree of the sun-god, we can understand the dream of Cathair. According to the Rennes Dinnsenchus^ Cathair dreamt of a high hill, on which stood a tree shining like gold and reaching to the clouds. In its leaves was every melody ; and its fruits, when shaken by the wind, specked the ground. Puzzled by his dream, Cathair consulted the wizard Bri, who interpreted the tree as none other than Cathair himself lording it over Ireland in his liberality.

Again, if the Irish king was believed to exercise solar powers, some of the curious prohibitions and privileges attaching to his office become intelligible. A poem by Cuan O'Lothchain,^ apparently addressed to the door- keeper of king Malachy II., who came to the throne in 979 A.D., mentions seven prohibitions and seven privileges. Among the former is the rule that the king ' should not let the sun rise upon him in his bed in the plain of Tara ' : this, taken in connexion with the practice of

lA. Lang The Blue Fairy Book London 1889 p. 385 ff. 'The Red Etin' '(from Chambers Popular Tradilions of Scotland), J. Jacobs English Fairy Tales ed. 3 London 1898 p. 131 ff. 'The Red Ettin.'

^ Whitley Stokes ' The Rennes Dind'senchas ' in the Revue celtique xv. 430 f.

^O'Curry Manners and Customs ii. 141.